U50 legacy projects offer quiet, beautiful community places

The celebration of York’s 50th anniversary year (U50) will be remembered not only inside the history books but outside as well – through a series of special projects designed to enhance campus life for students, faculty and staff.

From the front door of the Keele campus to the entrance of York Hall at Glendon and in spaces all around, the projects offer a different kind of legacy for future generations – one that speaks to the importance of sustainability and the environment, and of quiet, beautiful places for thinking, reading and socializing.

Right: A large granite boulder and drought-resistant garden now mark the entrance to York’s Keele campus. The garden is part of several legacy projects that commemorate York’s 50th anniversary.

The final list of U50 legacy projects was selected from a list of suggestions supplied by the University’s Master Planning & Facilities Committee to the U50 organizing committees. The key criteria for selecting the project short list, says Cindy Bettcher, York’s U50 project director, was that the recommended initiatives be projects that would live on for future years and contribute favourably to life on York’s Keele and Glendon campuses.

“We had a huge list of ideas submitted by York’s campus planner and the U50 committees developed a number of key themes to consider for these legacy projects – they had to mark York’s anniversary year and improve the campus life for students, faculty and staff,” says Bettcher.

The anniversary legacy projects also had to be economical, sustainable and environmentally friendly, which ruled out construction of a new building, installation of a sculpture or other grand gesture. After reviewing the list, the committee settled on a number of legacy projects that fit the criteria. Students were consulted on the short list of improvements and the list was then sent to the Committee of Master Planning & Facilities for approval.

Left: A landscape crew works on the new Shoreham Road entrance. The new garden has a waterfall and seating area and is planted with drought-resistant perennials and shrubs.

The final list includes an interesting blend of gardens, benches, new accessible pathways and greeting points for the University. Many of the projects are entering the final stages of being completed.

Two Governor’s Gardens, one on each campus, celebrate the contributions of those who have served the University in its first 50 years. The gardens, which were created this past summer, are encircled with armour stone – large stones that can be sat on – to encourage the community to use the space. The stones also serve to protect the earth needed to support a variety of flowering perennial plants that are native to the area. The perennials and flowering shrubs were planted to attract bees and butterflies and carefully selected for their drought resistance, colourful display and hardiness.

The Governor’s Garden on the Keele campus is located adjacent to Library Lane, south of the Scott Library. The walkway is highly travelled and the committee felt it would improve the existing landscape. The garden on the Glendon campus is located in a prominent location adjacent to the pathway leading to the courtyard.

Right: The Governor’s Garden on the Keele campus is located adjacent to Library Lane

Students, faculty and staff can now sit, think and socialize on some of the 50 benches that are being installed throughout the campuses, on their grounds and in the interior of buildings. The York University Licensing Board donated the funds for the 50 commemorative benches that were placed on both campuses from monies that were raised from the sale of licensed York merchandise.

The Keele campus received 25 new interior benches and 12 outdoor benches. The Glendon campus is now home to seven new interior benches and six outdoor benches. The benches feature a modern design of stainless steel for the interior models and hardy wrought iron for exterior benches. The benches were installed in groups to promote an atmosphere where people could feel comfortable gathering to sit in the sunshine and enjoy a good book or the company of each other.

Left: Two of the U50 legacy benches that are currently being installed in outdoor spaces at York’s Keele and Glendon campuses

"Every bench is a potential social space – a place to meet, to wait, to talk, to read, to eat and to work," says Helen Psathas, York’s senior manager of environmental design & sustainability, who worked with the committee to fulfill the vision for the U50 legacy projects. "The benches bear commemorative plaques that identify them as anniversary benches."

There were also a number of projects that were specific to each campus. For the Keele campus, the legacy projects include landscape upgrades that enhance the York Boulevard and Shoreham Road entrances and interpretive signage that signifies the unique historic and ecological features on the campus.

Right: The new U50 interior benches

The upgraded landscape and garden features at the York Boulevard entrance were designed to be both sustainable and to create a “gateway” to raise the prominence of the "front door" of the Keele campus. This legacy project differentiates the York Boulevard entrance from other entrances to the campus and signifies it as the main entrance to a significant institution. Elevating its prominence aligns with the decision of the Board of Governors to extend the campus’s academic core to have frontage and a presence on Keele Street.

The installation features a large piece of pink granite rock that is engraved with the York logo. It is surrounded by a perennial garden that features native plants that are drought resistant and attractive to bees and butterflies.

York’s "back door" has also received a landscape upgrade. The Shoreham Drive entrance is now adorned with a garden and waterfall. Both features complement the redeveloped campus entrance and improve its integration with the Arboretum and Campus Walk. The landscaping is anchored by armour stones to create a place for community members to sit, socialize and enjoy the view over the Stong Pond. As with the Governor’s Gardens, the shrubs and perennial flowering plants are native to the area and are drought resistant.

Left: The York Boulevard entrance in the early stages of its construction

Interpretive signage has been installed on the Keele campus adjacent to woodlots, unique ecological features and historical buildings. The signage will serve to educate community members and visitors about the heritage features of the campus. The signs have been placed by the Boynton Woods, Danby Woods and Osgoode Woodlot on the Keele campus. Heritage landscape features on the Keele campus, including the Campus Arboretum, Sakura cherry trees, Newton apple trees and Maloca Gardens, are also marked by the interpretive signage. The stories of the Stong, Hoover and Hart houses on the Keele campus have also been preserved and recorded on interpretive signage.

On the Glendon campus, the main legacy project features a restoration of the celebrated Bruce Bryden Rose Garden. The restoration also coincided with the 85th anniversary of the garden itself. Elements of the rose garden, including restoration of the garden’s gazebo, new roses and walkways throughout the garden, have brought the showpiece of the Glendon campus back to its former glory. The garden is an historic element of the former Wood Estate, on which the Glendon campus stands. 

Right: New pathways at York’s Glendon campus enhance accessibility for community members and visitors

The pathway from the main entrance of the Glendon campus was also re-graded and widened to increase accessibility.

"Each of these projects offers a lasting, beautiful legacy of the 50th anniversary for past, present and future generations of York students, faculty and staff to enjoy," says Bettcher.

Visit the U50 Web site to learn more about York University’s 50th-anniversary celebrations which took place in 2009.

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor